Ruth Rendell’s Adam and Eve and Pinch Me – title comes from an annoying children’s joke – is not a mystery. I realized this when we finally got to the crime about 166 pages in and followed the murderer the whole way. I did hold a little corner of hope that there’d be some sort of twist at the end, but that was not to be. The book follows OCD Minty, idiot Zillah and Fiona and her neighbors and their relationships particularly with a guy named Jerry or Jeff or Jock who’s a good-looking, good-for-nothing who uses his looks to live off women. If I sound a bit surly it’s because I feel somehow betrayed by the book — which doesn’t make much sense, I’ll admit. It all seems somewhat contrived. As though Rendell wanted to write a book to demonstrate that people aren’t always responsible for their actions so she invented this character Minty who grows more peculiar throughout the book. But don’t we already know of people who’ve had psychotic breakdowns and aren’t responsible for their actions? This might have been ground-breaking a hundred years before it was written, but now it just seems both contrived and elementary. There are a number of coincidences as well which stretch credulity too far. It feels like there aren’t more than a dozen people living in London.
Somewhat to my surprise I learn there are three different books with this title. It doesn’t seem that good a title to me. Reading other blogs and reviews, everyone else seems to like it a lot. “Characters that will capture your heart.” Um, some of the side characters are likable – Minty’s neighbors and Fiona’s neighbors are both nice couples. But the main characters? Zillah, who enters an arranged marriage with her childhood friend who’s a conservative politician trying to stay in the closet, seems to have no idea what a conservative is, what politics are, or what tabloids are. She seems to like her children no more than Jims, who is a shallow jerk who barely speaks to his new fake family. Fiona who doesn’t really have a character except a certain tendency toward charity. Jerry/Jock/Jeff is clearly getting by on his looks because his main characteristics are telling annoying jokes and eating mints. I also found the timeline hard to follow and it seemed like Fiona’s supposedly hugely overweight neighbor lost it all in a month. Rendell can write and I found myself drawn back to the book until I finished it, so clearly there’s something in it, but there’s also, for me, disappointment. Like opening Al Capone’s vault — all anticipation, no payoff.